The Importance of Peer-to-Peer Appreciation
In the past, an employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor was found to be one of the most influential factors in whether or not the employee enjoyed their job. So, when we first started applying the 5 languages to work-based relationships, our early focus was on training supervisors and managers in how to communicate appreciation effectively to their team members.
While this was a good starting point, we quickly learned that to focus solely on managers and supervisors was too narrow and not all that was needed. Although most employees like to receive positive messages from their supervisor, hearing encouragement and support from their coworkers has become increasingly important. Receiving a compliment or having a colleague report to others how valuable your contribution was to the success of a project is extremely meaningful to more and more employees.
Moreover, colleagues are often the individuals who seem to be most excited to learn how to support their peers. Team members repeatedly tell us that they want to learn how to encourage their colleagues. In fact, we are finding that the work groups who are most successful in creating a positive work environment are the ones where the manager understands and works to implement the principle of mutual appreciation and encouragement among team members.
How the Workplace Has Changed
The biggest change to the workplace in the last decade has been the influx of millions of younger employees and the exodus of older generations. This shift has had a dynamic effect on the look, feel, and structure of workplace culture. Younger employees, as a group, tend to desire more collaboration in completing tasks. And as the proportion of employees and leaders from younger generations increases, the supervisor-employee relationship has declined in importance.
In past decades, it was common to hear people say things like, “people don’t leave a job, they leave a supervisor.” However, recent employee engagement surveys have found that employee happiness is more closely correlated to the connections they share with their coworkers rather than those they shared with their direct supervisor.
Our book, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, goes into more depth on the benefits of peer to peer appreciation, the implications for action, and feedback from training participants. Our recent experiences make it clear that expanding the focus from expecting managers and supervisors to be the sole “appreciators” to include peer appreciation creates numerous positive results, including:
- Lightening the load (and perceived load) on managers and supervisors to provide all of the relational support within a team.
- Acknowledging the focus of younger employees on peer relationships in the workplace.
- Allowing for appreciation to be applied and communicated even if a manager/ supervisor isn’t interested or involved.
- Keeping team members engaged and empowering them to make a difference in their workplace culture.
First, we’re not proposing that managers give up their efforts to show recognition and communicate appreciation to team members. But when employees and supervisors consistently and effectively communicate appreciation to their colleagues, positive results occur more quickly and are more dramatic in their intensity, and the “staying power” of their effect is longer lasting.
Secondly, when we talk about peer-to-peer appreciation, we are not equating this with technology-based programs where someone sends a colleague a “Way to go!” message with an emoji, or even a note of commendation via a recognition software used by the organization. While those are acceptable starting points, they are clearly not the same as personally communicating appreciation in the appreciation language and actions meaningful to the recipient.
Authentic appreciation communicated from both leaders and coworkers is the need of the moment. When team members and supervisors are trained in how to communicate appreciation effectively to one another, a supportive work environment emerges that others will envy.
Categories 5 Languages of Appreciation, Appreciation, employee peer-to-peer recognition, Managing By Appreciation, Workplace Culture